Alameda County
Bar Association

Protecting Your Vehicle: How Thieves Exploit Bluetooth 

Protecting Your Vehicle: How Thieves Exploit BluetoothAs residents or people who do business in the Bay Area, we often joke about the “tax” we pay to live and work in one of the country’s most exciting and vibrant areas. That “tax” being broken car windows and other vehicle break-ins. As technology advances, so do the methods employed by criminals. In recent months, there has been a rise in thefts facilitated by Bluetooth technology. Thieves are leveraging this wireless communication protocol to identify and target vehicles for break-ins. While many of these break-ins are unavoidable, there are effective steps to protect yourself and your vehicle.

The Bluetooth Connection:

Bluetooth technology, designed to provide short-range wireless communication between devices, has become integral to modern technology. However, its convenience also presents a potential security risk. Thieves exploit vulnerabilities in Bluetooth systems to identify and select specific cars as potential targets.

How Thieves Use Bluetooth:

Thieves use specialized Bluetooth scanning devices typically used to locate lost gadgets (like airpods) to detect signal strength emitted by electronics. These devices can pick up signals from key fobs, smartphones, laptops, or Bluetooth-enabled devices inside cars and can even tell where these signals are coming from in the car.

Steps to Protect Yourself:

  1. Disable Bluetooth, or shut down devices completely when not in use. Did you know that even when laptops are in sleep mode they continue to emit detectable signals?
  2. Do not leave anything in your vehicle: We know sometimes it is not possible to take your electronics with you, but whenever you can, do not leave anything in your car, even out of sight.
  3. Always always always require a two-factor authentitcation to safeguard private information.
  4. Do not store client information on laptops, only use it to access such information remotely.
  5. Ensure your firm/IT department has the ability to quickly and easily locate, lock, and wipe clean the laptop.

What are Your Obligations as a Lawyer if Your Work Laptop is Stolen?

The California State Bar’s Formal Opinion No. 2020-203 Data Breaches covers several scenarios regarding a lawyer’s ethical obligation if there is unauthorized access to electronically stored confidential client information.  

As technology evolves, so must our approach to security. Protecting your vehicle from Bluetooth-based theft requires a combination of digital and physical measures. Stay informed, be proactive, and take the necessary steps to safeguard your vehicle and belongings.